Sustainability

The Birds and the Bees

The Birds and the Bees

The global decline of the bee population has been solved (or at least helped) in the organic, food-producing gardens designed and created by the women of Star Apple Edible Gardens. Visiting one of their installations—a terraced, hillside back yard in the East Bay—it was impossible not to notice the steady hum of bees among the plants and flowers.

Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner talked to The Real Story about the trend toward bringing edible gardening to Bay Area front yards. These public spaces provide disadvantages (think dogs anointing strawberries) but there are also significant advantages—those of meeting neighbors or strengthening relationships among the community by sharing the harvest.

From a practical standpoint, are edible gardens more water-reliant? According to Leslie, if one compares the water used in traditional lawn sprinklers to a drip system for edible plants, the edible garden comes out well. When it comes to a discussion about organic gardening, Leslie and Stefani were excited to share the idea of treating each garden, no matter what it’s size, as an individual ecosystem. Their advice on mulching, organic composting, and crop rotation is all part of this week’s podcast.  For more information on the subject, go to www.starappleediblegardens.com.

Year-round gardening for a healthy kitchen

Year-round gardening for a healthy kitchen

Last month, The Real Story took to the road to visit the founders of Star Apple Edible Gardens in a backyard planted for year-round harvesting. Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner took us up to a deck overlooking a colorful and sustainable landscape, and talked about their business.

In today’s podcast, Leslie and Stefani talk about how edible gardens provide both a beautiful and productive setting with a varied plantscape that responds to the seasons. In California, edible gardens are productive year-round; the trick is to mix up fruit and vegetable plantings with flowering plants, matching low-spreading plants with those with some height and structure, and understanding that some plants actually protect the plants around it.

As a bit of advice to the home gardener who buys a six-pack of plants and ends up with too much of a good thing during its harvest, and then a bare spot in the yard, the women suggest dividing up that vegetable’s growing area into three sections. In the first go the already-growing plants. Seeds go into the next section, and the last section is left unplanted until all of the first section is harvested and the second section showing growth. Then the last section is planted in seeds, and the cycle of succession planting keeps the home gardener in the green all season long.

Stefani and Leslie provide some welcome advice about planting the kitchen garden close to the back door, so that the plants that one needs on a daily basis are literally within snipping distance, and not out in a far corner where the raccoons can feast.